If you had free reign to build your perfect vehicle, what would it be? A Lamborghini or monster truck may be dream cars...but there are so many situations where either one of them would be an absolute nightmare to drive (have you seen the Top Gear where they drive exotics in a busy Italian city?) In order to be the "ultimate vehicle," you've got to have just enough of everything. While there probably is no such thing as the perfect car, ICON 4x4 outside of Los Angeles, California builds something which is very well as close as you can get. Specializing in 1966-1975 Ford Broncos - Icon doesn't simply restore them, they perfect them.
Perfection doesn't come quickly, or cheaply. The process of creating an ICON Bronco is a long and time-consuming one. No corners are cut and no expenses are spared. Because of that, an ICON Bronco brings with it a top-shelf price tag. The lowest-end Bronco that leaves the ICON shop is around $160,000, but the vast majority get all, or at least most, of the add-ons and generally garner $200,000 to $260,000.
Take the custom front grille for an example. Every ICON Bronco starts out as 96# of billeted aluminum and is customized down to 24# by the time ICON is done with it. Every light, even the back-up lights, are LED. The connectors, a small detail almost always overlooked, reveals just how insane the folks at ICON are about perfection - you won't see average butt connectors on an ICON Bronco's wiring, every single connection on every vehicle that ICON creates uses all waterproof triple-seal connections and a 75 amp alternator with an Optima battery providing the juice.
The ICON Bronco gets its power from a Ford Coyote 5.0 engine as seen in Ford Mustang GTs. With 412 hp, these powerplants have far more power than the original Bronco could handle...but again, we're talking about the ultimate 4x4.
Jonathan Ward, CEO and Lead Designer of ICON, states that the about 50% of these Broncos are used daily by their owners, with the other half are usually kept at a "ranch". I don't imagine these ranchers are using their quarter-million dollar SUVs to haul hay though, Jonathan clarifies that ranch use usually includes some light work and lots of fun.
An ICON Bronco is customized to the specific needs of its owner. Jonathan and his staff work with each client to ascertain that they are getting the right vehicle for them (ICON also perfects upon a number of other nostaglic off-road vehicles). Not only are ICON trucks works of art, they also epitomize the word "utility".
To start a build, ICON scours the country for used original Broncos in rebuildable condition. One important factor they look for is original paint. This is because "we know what we're getting," as Ward states. The truck is then completely stripped down and rebuilt from the ground up. New chassis, ABS brakes and updated suspensions. Ward states that one of greatest advancements in the decades since these beasts were originally built at the Ford factory is the ability to properly distribute weight throughout a vehicle. With Fox Racing coil-over shocks on all four wheels and tuneable sway bars, every corner is fully capable of carrying it's weight.
One significant difference between an ICON Bronco and the original Ford is the user interface. Although the dash looks very similar to a new, original dash - that's where the similarity ends. ICON's dashes are made of only the very best material and you'll not find an ounce of plastic on an ICON creation. The design is an updated classic, preventing it from looking out-of-style in another five or ten years. Just as the rest of the truck, the styling is designed to be long-term. Ward explains that he designs them "to transcend the user interface from the original."
Another distinction between an ICON Bronco and the rest of the pack is the way they achieve clearance for four-wheeling. Thanks to the world-renowned work of Art Morrison, each ICON Bronco achieves a true 12" of clearance through engineering the chassis and suspension, rather than cutting the body and fender wells.
The tires on this creation are Nitto 285/70/R17 Trail Grapplers designed for stability off-road as well as highway use. The tires are excellent for off-road use, per Ward, and have a very aggressive pattern that work extremely well in rough terrain.
From tube benders to TIG welders, ICON has a tremendous amount of equipment inside their facility, however they don't do everything in-house. Collaboration is one of the most important elements of an ICON creation. Building upon one anothers strengths, collaboration has helped ICON acheive things they wouldn't have been able to do on their own. When ICON and their sister company, TLC first began building SUVs, they had no OEM support. Ward states that "we used their material hoping that they would endorse it, or at least not prevent us from using it." Today, there is OEM material in every one of their creations. Ford was the first manufacturer to begin collaborating with ICON, now companies from Mercedes to GM work alongside them. And it is not only auto manufacturers; military and aircraft suppliers, including Lear and Cessna, as well as Nike, Tom Lee, Camillo and Dale Banks also collaborate with ICON on their SUVs.
If the level of perfection in an ICON Bronco reaches towards that ultimate vehicle in your view, then take this advice from Ward, whether it's an SUV or any other car you're customizing, he says, "If you're going to do it yourself, think the project the whole way through. Start out with quality engineering and don't start out with cosmetics. Remember that style will change over time, so what looks cool today may cost a lot of sweat, time and money when you are in your final stages. Make it a driver and when you get more money, work on the rest. Don't do it all at once."
See more of ICON at www.icon4x4.com.